All Progressives Congress’ N5, 000 Stipend For Unemployed Youths: What Impact?

By Georges Macnobleson-Idowu

A Yoruba adage says “showering a child with gifts, especially cash, without accompanying it with proper counsel or direction could derail the child’s life.” Nigeria, no doubt, is at a crucial time in history, and must be very cautious in its decisions. The All Progressives Congress’ government led by President Muhammadu Buhari has recently reiterated its assurance to start the disbursement of the N5, 000 monthly stipend to every unemployed Nigerian youth in the New Year (2016).

The initiative, no qualms, seems laudable in all ramifications to many Nigerians, especially as it is believed in many quarters that it would, to a large extent, reduce the real pressure and obvious economic tension of lack of jobs on an average Nigerian youth, and more significantly, on their parents or guardians. Also, it is seen as the first of its kinds in Nigeria and perhaps, in the whole of the African continent. But then, have we really sat down to ponder on the possible danger/s in the proposed gesture by the APC government?

Have we asked ourselves, if there is or could be any implication in giving monthly stipend to unemployed youths, whether educated or not? Have we considered aligning this initiative to some forms of vocational/entrepreneurial training? If the answers to these questions are No, then it would be correct to assume that just giving out N5, 000 monthly stipend to youths without engaging or occupying their naive minds with some creative ventures to make them responsible citizens, would amount to naught.

Many Nigerians, I believe, still cannot say exactly what the APC’s government intends to achieve with this N5, 000 monthly initiative. But whatever the government’s objective is, it is important that the economic realities of the country and the common disposition or better still, spirit, of its target generation, is put into suitable perspective and consideration.

Already, the present generation of Nigerian youth is a desperate one, which does not believe in hard work. It is a generation that is always seeking a short-cut to the top. It is obvious therefore, that giving such a desperate generation of unemployed youths, whether educated or not N5, 000 would further stretch its indolence rather than encourage it positively, because it lacks admiration for hard work. Worst still, is the erroneous mentality of the generation that the proposed N5, 000 is the government’s technique of extending the national cake to it. It follows therefore, that giving a generation that believes in little work more money, such amount without a commensurate vocational/entrepreneurial training that could make it self-reliance and employers of labour, would amount to indirectly empowering it for greater societal evils/crimes. It also follows that the Buhari administration must define its objective for this initiative, because one cannot help but wonder, if the proposed era of Naira-rain for Nigerian unemployed youths would be a life-support pension, or a temporary support, pending when its recipients/beneficiaries find a sustainable gleam of life or secure white-collar jobs. The truth is that whether the APC government accepts or not, running such initiative without a clear-cut vocational/entrepreneurial training would in no time, overwhelmed the government, and it would be forced to abandon it in no time, as well.

It would be wise and economically advantageous, if the government can put this initiative in perspective, and in phases in a manner that vocational/entrepreneurial training is injected into every fabric of it with each phase carrying a timeframe for the training, as the disbursement of the stipend also runs. This, without any suspicion, would allow each recipient/beneficiary to learn at least a vocation or trade within the specified period, for which the stipend would also run.

The timeframe could be six months or one year, depending whether the beneficiary is a skilled or unskilled unemployed. This would mean that the beneficiary’s both purchasing and mental powers are being expanded simultaneously, such that at the end of each phase, the beneficiary would have become self-reliance and independent. In this wise, the stipend would have served as transportation and feeding for the beneficiary within the period of training/apprenticeship rather than mere monthly pocket money, or better still, compensation for the generation for not being able to secure white-collar jobs.

The danger in consistently giving people any amount of money for a longer period of time is that at some point in the future that money, no matter the amount, would become grossly inadequate, and this could push the same unemployed generation into bigger societal evils/crimes. The value for any money when not used to create other values or gains, especially in real assets, obviously often falls with time.

Survival in today’s world is definitely no longer about just acquiring certificates or degrees, it’s about technical assets or skills. It follows however, that an eligibility-period, perhaps two to three years, be injected to determine how long the stipend would be made accessible to every beneficiary/recipient. But again, this whole initiative can only be made rewarding and value adding when each beneficiary goes away with some forms of empowerment either through vocational or entrepreneurial training.

However, this also brings to the fore the importance of injecting or introducing vocational and entrepreneurial training into the country’s education curriculum; at least the secondary school level, if not the tertiary stage. This is critical, as the economic realities, not only of Nigeria, but of the globe, is indicating so, especially now that the Nigerian government seems to be totally confused and stranded on how best to solve the crisis of unemployment in the country.

The wisdom, if not ignorance, in the government’s “stipend initiative” when supported with vocational /entrepreneurial training, is that while it attempts to take care or clear the huge debts of unemployed persons, the school aspect of it takes care of those about to hit the labour market, and in so doing, every Nigerian youth of employable age becomes mentally and technically alert for the labour market, such that everyone has a choice whether to become an employer of labour in his/her own little corner or go in search of a white-collar job. Another area the government should consider introducing vocational/entrepreneurial training is the one year National Youth Service Corps.

This again, would depend on whether it has been earlier introduced at the post primary or tertiary stage of the country’s education system. Where it has been introduced at the secondary level, it’s critical that it is reintroduced during the NYSC year to refresh the memory of the participants, and finally ascertain their readiness for the labour market.

But where such training has been acquired at the tertiary level, as a minor course of study along the major course, there would be no need to reintroduce it at the NYSC stage. The secondary stage, perhaps is most significant, because not all holders of the school certificate always further to the tertiary level. And for such, access to a vocational or entrepreneurial training at that formative stage is just very critical for a life time.

Georges Macnobleson-Idowu, [email protected]

Coolfm/Wazobiafm/Nigeria Info.

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